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Blog of Sarah McIntyre, children's book writer & illustrator
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1. #PicturesMeanBusiness: taking a stand on book covers

It's great following on Twitter the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign to credit illustrators and seeing how we're making some progress. (See picturesmeanbusiness.com if you wan to catch up.) But we're still hitting major hitches: writers, publishers, journalists and reviewers whom you'd think would support crediting illustrators - some of who've even heard of the campaign and expressed interest - keep letting us down. Writers and publicists launch new cover art with no mention of the illustrator. Illustrators of highly illustrated books are left off the cover. Articles show lavish book art without mentioning who created it, the list goes on.



Why? What's the problem? I don't think most people are doing it deliberately, they're just being thoughtless, or can't be bothered. What I love about children's book world - but what also can trip us up - is that its people are mostly very NICE. They love book-themed cupcakes and photos of puppies and being, well, nice to each other. Everyone can coast on a wave of niceness, never addressing the major issues that have illustrators flailing while often maintaining their rictus grins.

I want to do something that's not exactly nice. But maybe taking a stand will bring attention to the problem:

From now on, I'm not going to buy any new illustrated children's books unless the illustrator's name is somewhere on the front cover. Join me, if you like! By 'illustrated', I'm going to set the standard as 'at least one illustration per chapter'.

'But... but... that doesn't give us any time to make changes!' a publicist might object. 'Books might be send to print a year in advance of publication!' Well, I'll make a concession for one year: I'll buy the book PROVIDING the bookseller puts a Post-it note on the front cover, letting me know the name of the illustrator.



'But... that's kind of ugly!' the publicist might object. Well, yes, it is. Better just to put the illustrator's name on the cover then, right? A quick redesign of a dust jacket might work, before you change the cover to include the illustrator for the second print run.

Publishers: if you don't think the fact a book is illustrated adds any value to a book, or that making people aware of this draws in potential customers, don't bother spending the money to get your book illustrated. And then watch as the illustrated books soar ahead of your books in sales and those other books draw in the so-called reluctant readers, gladdening the hearts of parents and teachers.

(Find out more at picturesmeanbusiness.com and browse the #PicturesMeanBusiness hash tag on Twitter.)

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2. #PicturesMeanBusiness: notes for writers and publicists

It's great having the support of writers for the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign: our previous Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman was one of the first writers to support it, Philip Ardagh asks questions when illustrator names are left out of articles featuring illustration, Joanne Harris tweeted a list about illustrators, and of course my co-author Philip Reeve has been right there with it all along. I think it adds extra weight to the arguments when writers fight for us, like we're in it together. When I first started talking about it, writers on Facebook were quick to point out how much they value their illustrators and cover artists.

But even writers who talk about the importance of crediting their team still forget to credit them at key publicity moments. Why do they do this? I think many non-illustrators in the world of publishing are completely clueless about everything related to illustration. They think it's something quickly added on at the end of the book process to make it extra-shiny. But they don't understand what illustration actually involves.



Here are a couple of real-life scenarios (genders may have been changed for anonymity):

Scene one: A writer raved about his new book cover on Twitter, even writing a detailed blog post about how much he loves the artwork and why he loves it. But he forgot to mention the name of the illustrator, much less link to her. Why? There was no lack of space to write that information, he just didn't think of it.

But isn't it obvious, to link illustrations with the person who made them? Perhaps the writer saw it like I do when someone compliments me for my outfit and I just say 'thank you', instead of telling the person who designed each item (because they didn't ask). But I still find it VERY strange when someone compliments a writer on their book cover art and they just say 'thank you' instead of saying 'Isn't it great? It's by Joe Illustrator!' In this case, the person just needed a gentle private reminder and he fixed the blog within minutes. (Funnily enough, I find myself talking a lot about my tailor to people these days when they compliment my dresses.)

Scene two: A publisher got in touch and told me a writer has been asking to have me illustrate her children's book (fiction, with chapters). I had tight commitments to do other work, but I knew the writer a little bit and thought, well, maybe I could do the work in the gap times. I read the manuscript - it was pretty good - and I could see ways I could inject a lot of extra humour into it through the pictures. I wrote back to the editor to find out what sort of deadline I'd have, and she replied, 'One month'. WHAT? Okay, so there's no way I could do that in the gaps. The designer wanted over 150 illustrations so it would've had to have been my full-time job. I wrote back saying I couldn't do it in that amount of time. We wrote back and forth a couple more times and the correspondence took about a week.

I ran into the writer at an event a couple weeks later. We had a chat about the book and I apologised for not being able to illustrate it.

'I can't believe they would only give me a month to do all the pictures', I said, with a rueful expression on my face. To my surprise - and horror - the writer smiled broadly and said,

'But isn't that great?!'

'What...?'

'It means the publishers really want to push my book, to get it out there!' she gushed. 'They're not going to let it sit around.' I gaped at her. This was a writer I knew had spend at least a year, possibly YEARS, preparing this manuscript, taking it to critique groups, crafting it to be just right.

'But it's not fair on the illustrator', I protested. 'Over 150 illustrations in... well, now it's three weeks, not a month'.

'But that's okay,' said the writer. 'He has a really sketchy style and he can just knock them out in no time.'

By this point I was almost on the floor, overwhelmed with grief for this poor illustrator. The writer had NO IDEA how much time and effort that illustrator might be taking to work out the layout with the designer, come up with the looks of the characters, get the drawing compositions right, etc. The illustrator might have to make five painstaking under-drawings of a picture before tracing over it in that 'sketchy' style that looks so effortless.

The book came out, the writer was thrilled with the pictures, which weren't amazing, but still surprisingly good, considering how fast they'd been done. But my heart hurt for the illustrator, I hope he hadn't had any family crises or anything during that time. He must've needed the work very badly to have agreed to that time schedule. The writer proceeded to publicise the book vigourously, never mentioning the illustrator's name unless directly asked.

I made a vow to myself that I would rather change professions before agreeing to work with that writer. And I don't think she ever had any sense that what she'd been saying to me was so horribly offensive. I later heard her saying she might self-publish and illustrate the next book herself because 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid is practically stick figures and that sells well'. ...There are stick figures and there are stick figures. I didn't even know how to respond, in any way that she could understand. If she can pull it off, more power to her, but I have my doubts.

Writers often like to cast themselves in a very romantic light. They tweet about their process, staring thoughtfully out windows, drinking too much coffee, trying to pull something from the depths of their souls. But I think this is sometimes how they understand writing and illustrating:



And they are very wrong. Here's the truth. (And I think much of this also applies to translators.)



But it's not just writers who underestimate what goes into illustration (and translation); publicists are forgetting even to include information that their books are illustrated. Publishers, why bother spending money on illustrations if you're not even going to mention them? Isn't that false advertising? You're either pretending the book isn't illustrated, or you're pretending that the writer made the illustrations. And don't say 'but the illustrator's mentioned on the back cover'. No one looks at the back cover when they're browsing online.

Fortunately we have a #PicturesMeanBusiness ally in Fiona Noble at The Bookseller. Here's her article from this week's magazine. Publicists, people WANT illustrated books. Don't be ashamed of the illustrations, don't forget about them, and certainly don't forget that it was a real person who created them. Writers, remember that illustrating may be a long, thoughtful process, too, and it's worthy of credit.



(Find out more at picturesmeanbusiness.com and browse the #PicturesMeanBusiness hash tag on Twitter.)

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3. some updates

I've just been updating my website Events page (do have a peek!), and SCBWI have just announced that Philip Reeve and I will be keynote speakers at November's conference!



In fact, there will be four keynote speakers, including Jonny Duddle and David Fickling, and there are about twenty other people speaking (some more famous than us) who could easily have stepped in!



SCBWI Conference is such a great opportunity for anyone who's starting out in children's books and wants to find out how to get in deeper, or who's been in the business for awhile and fancies mixing with company, learning some new things and sharing experiences. Here's the programme. The cost of a packed weekend is £220 for SCBWI members, £250 for non-members and you can book here. I've been to several of these conferences and they're a big part of how I got into the business.

Sometimes my books with Philip are called 'middle grade' and Philip hates that term, for good reason. So he's written a new blog post about it, and you can leave comments or tweet your thoughts to him on the subject at @philipreeve1 or leave a comment on our Reeve & McIntyre Facebook page.


Keep reading...

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4. grass sprite

I love having a studio, but one of the problems is that when I go home, I only have my pencil case with me, none of my paints. So I recently bought a little Winsor & Newton travel watercolour set (recommended by @Jontofski) and thought I'd try to play with it a bit more when I do morning sketches. Here's a little grass sprite I came up with today:



It's the second paintings I made, after this little study of a tuft of grass:



I found the tuft in my pocket from one of my trips to visit the Reeves on Dartmoor. I love all the different kinds of grasses we find there.



And, of course, it only seems natural to attach it to one's head. I suspect the tuft started out as fake ear hair, and Philip said 'GROW UP, MCINTYRE'. My Dad, also, has never grown up; here he is in fine mossy moustache.

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5. oliver and the seawigs wins a ukla award!

Yesterday was an exciting day for Oliver and the Seawigs when Oliver, Iris, Cliff the rambling isle and a jabber of Sea Monkeys picked up a UKLA Award! UKLA is the UK Literary Association and I've heard this award called 'the teacher's Carnegie' because it's judged entirely by teachers and it's a big honour to win it. Here's coverage in the Guardian:


(Read the rest of the article here.)

Even the journey to the ceremony in Nottingham felt a bit special when, in honour of Wimbledon tennis, East Midland Trains surprised everyone with complimentary strawberries.



My co-author Philip Reeve snapped pictures of me busily making a #PicturesMeanBusiness cover for my phone.



When we arrived at the National College for Teaching and Leadership, we ran into fellow Oxford University Press-published author Gill Lewis, our Seawigs publisher Liz Cross and UKLA's Joy Court (who's been very helpful with the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign).




And here's writer Jo Cotterill, and Sarah Howells from OUP who was looking after us for the event.



We were supposed to be schmoozing teachers before the ceremony but Reeve was most uncharacteristically reserved.



Here's UKLA's Lynda Graham opening the ceremony with a slide of all the shortlisted books for the three categories of awards.



We got to see teachers talk about each book and how they'd used in their classrooms and how the children had responded to them.



I loved hearing from these kids about Oliver and the Seawigs. Check out the knitted Sea Nonkey, and that boy in the middle had made a clay version of Oliver!



While Seawigs won the main 7-11 award, Heather Butler's Us Minus Mum received a special commendation for dealing with death and grief. It was great to see a special award created for that book that will be very important for specific children going through these issues.

After the ceremony, teachers came up to us afterward and raved about how important the Seawigs illustrations were to getting kids in their 7-11 age group reading and enjoying the experience. They can't get enough of quality illustrated chapter books. Philip and I didn't go into making these books because we saw a huge niche in the market - we just thought it was a great way to tell a story - but it's amazing to hear all the testimonials of how these illustrated books really hit home with kids. Philip and I took turns giving a short speech and making this drawing, and I talked a bit about #PicturesMeanBusiness and urged teachers to encourage their colleagues to talk just as much about the illustrator as the writer when they read and do class projects on books, so kids could have two sources of inspiration instead of one.



Here's Philip and Chris Haughton mucking around after the dinner UKLA laid on for us.



Huge thanks to UKLA's David Reedy, Lynda Graham and Joy Court, award sponsor MLS, all the teachers and kids who read the huge stacks of books, Marilyn Brocklehurst from Norfolk Children's Book Centre who provided books on the day, our editor Liz Cross for coming along, and Sarah Howell for being so helpful and organised! Oh, and Philip, of course for making an ace book with me. That guy constantly amazes me with the story stuff he comes up with.



If any teachers are reading this, check out my website for free printable activities to go along with our books Oliver and the Seawigs, Cakes in Space, and the upcoming Pugs of the Frozen North.



Time to use that award bowl... it's strawberry time!

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6. brighton doodlers

Sometimes I get invited to events in Brighton and I hardly ever go, unless I make elaborate plans to stay the night, because it seems far away. But people in publishing who live in Brighton are ALWAYS making the trek up to London for evening events. I started imagining I was like one of those north Londoners who won't go to events in south London, which is just silly. I felt like a wimp. So I finally went, just for an evening.



Here's a doodle of the Dartmoor Pegasus over Brighton Pavilion. (My Seawigs and Cakes in Space co-author, Philip Reeve, created the original fat Pegasus, is from Brighton and often tells me stories about it.) First stop was Liz Pichon's house, where I got to have a peek in the writing shed where she creates the Tom Gates books! She apologised about it being messy but I said she hadn't seen my desk. Liz's books are leading the way for books for so-called 'middle grade' readers in the way they bring together text and lots and lots of drawings.



Tom Gates is right up there with Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants and if you haven't seen the books, definitely check them out. I suspect the success of Tom Gates is one of the reason our publisher was so interested in publishing my highly illustrated books with Philip. So Liz is a bit of a hero, really.




Here's Liz with her husband Mark, who's a sound engineer and does a lot of work with her on apps and things. It's great seeing such a fab creative partnership.



Next stop was Chris Riddell's house, where Liz had masks so we could dress up in Chris's 'The Doodler' Children's Laureate superhero costume.


Photo by Liz Pichon

He and his painter-printmaker wife, Jo Riddell, had a few people around to the garden for drinks to celebrate book number twelve in his Edge Chronicles series with writer Paul Stewart. (Also spot Adam Stower and Zoe Tucker.) Chris sometimes tells me he lives his social life vicariously through my blog, so hello, Chris, if you're reading this! I think being Laureate is going to mean Chris is much MUCH more social than me for the next two years.



Writer-illustrator Sue Hendra and I sneaked back in the woods behind his house to check out his studio. It was locked, but you can see another blog post I made about it here, when Chris gave me a tour.



After a lovely evening, the train ride back (full of sunburnt beachgoers) was a bit of a jolt. In fact, it was so totally undignified that it was rather hilarious. I coped by tweeting this photo:



So it CAN be done, Brighton in an evening. But I'm still tempted next time to pitch a tent on the beach.

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7. #PicturesMeanBusiness update: Book Metadata

People have been asking me, ‘How’s it going with the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign?’

I’ve heard some good feedback that it’s starting to make a difference, that people in publishing are more aware of the impact they can make on illustrators’ careers by crediting them for their work. But important lists of illustrated books keep popping up with illustrators’ names omitted, from book-loving people you’d think would know better, and they usually assign the blame to incomplete or faulty digital data.

So how’s it going with the whole metadata issue? Are we any closer to sorting out the problems?

On Wednesday, I met up with Jo McCrum and Nicola Solomon from Society of Authors, Loretta Schauer from Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, journalist Charlotte Eyre from The Bookseller magazine and Andre Breedt from Nielsen, the company which compiles and provides the majority of book data. Andre Breedt was incredibly helpful and supportive of the campaign, and explained to us some of the bare bones of how the book data system works, and spent time thinking with us about ways we could try to improve the situation for illustrators (and translators). Here are some of the things I learned, and some conclusions we drew from the meeting, about what we all need to do to make things work better:

* Illustrators and illustrator agents: you need to be more attentive with CONTRACTS. The best way for a illustrator to get his or her name on the front cover of a book is to get that promise in writing. Illustrators, you or your agents need to HAVE THIS DISCUSSION with your publisher. (This is particularly important if you're illustrating educational material, so-called 'middle-grade fiction' or 'illustrated chapter books'.)



Don’t wait until you’ve finished illustrating half the book to finalise this stuff. Don’t work on the promise of a contract. Get it before you begin working or it may be too late; you may get a nasty surprise when the book comes out uncredited to you.

A phrase recommended in your contract by the Society of Authors lawyer at the meeting was ‘front cover credit with due prominence’. You can haggle with how big the lettering needs to be, but at least your name will be on the front cover. If you’ve done a lot of illustrations and the publisher refuses to put you on the front cover, this is a big deal, a blow to your branding, and may mean you have a harder time getting festival appearances and paid author visits. In that case, you need to decide (with your agent, if you have one):

1. If the publisher insists on not crediting you at all, will the publisher pay you a significant extra amount of money to compensate for this?

2. If you can come to another arrangement (say, your name on the title page, back cover, etc), are you happy with the pay and do you think the credit accurately reflects the amount of work you’ve contributed to the overall book?

3. After negotiating this, is the job still worth it, or should you turn it down?




The most important thing is that you’re clear about this important negotiation point from the beginning and the decision isn’t some sales team afterthought.

* Book charities and organisations, people who run award schemes, booksellers, journalists: assess your own practice. You may be in a rush, but don’t blindly accept what you’re given when you cut and paste data. If you’re making the effort to single out the books for recognition, take the time to make sure you’re correctly crediting the people who made them.

You may need to look at an actual copy of the book.



* Publishers: assess how your data works. To get illustrator data right, we need you to do three things:

1. Be sure you're using standardised data (more about this in a moment).

2. Be sure you (or your intern) fill out the box that asks for the illustrator's name (or 'populate the field' in data-speak).

3. When you request data, be sure to ask for the field that includes the illustrator data. If you don't ask for it, Nielsen won't force it on you.


Let me unpack those a bit.


1. Be sure you're using standardised data. The reason we keep having problems is that no one has a brand-new system. Almost everyone has what data people call 'legacy systems', which were designed for a certain purpose, years ago. As the book trade evolved, people made little additions and repairs along the way, instead of getting brand-new system.

For example, a lot of systems were designed for warehouse use, to help people shift around big boxes of books. For the purpose of moving boxes, all they needed to know was if the right books were in the right boxes, how much they'd weigh, and how they'd fit onto a lorry. So there was no reason they would pay to add extra information about an illustrator to the system; it genuinely didn't matter for those purposes.


As time went on, these warehouse systems evolved into what customers used to order books, online shop front (or in data-speak, 'front-end facing') systems. So the same system that dealt with box weight was gradually being asked to deal with customer reviews, star ratings, interesting details about the authors, other book recommendations, etc. And some systems made the transition better than others; transitions costs money. Some companies would get the illustrator data from Nielsen, but their own software wasn't detailed enough for all the data to make the transition to their website, and they could only make manual changes if they wanted to include illustrators for their customers. (Hive Books have been good about adding illustrators when asked, but they're working on improving their overall system.)



For awhile I thought Nielsen didn't actually have a data field for the illustrator. Like most illustrators, I don't have access to their system since I'm not a subscriber, so I couldn't check. But Nielsen DO have this field. Here's the information the Nielsen rep pulled up for my picture book, Dinosaur Police. (And we were both pleased to see Scholastic UK had been filling out all the right data.)




At the meeting with the Nielsen rep, I learned a lot of behind-the-scenes things. If you're trying to understand how it all works, it's important that you understand the roles of these groups:



Nielsen BookData is a business. Nielsen provide a lot of services that help the book trade run effectively behind the scenes. They provide ISBNs for all books published in the UK and Ireland. They collect information on books from publishers, and sent it out to booksellers and libraries, arranged how they want it. They provide electronic ordering services to enable booksellers to order the books for their shops, and they provide the sales and market information, including the bestseller charts. Nielsen data can easily be accessed in standard formats, but if you want a bespoke service, it will take a little longer and cost a little more.



They have two main systems: a bibliographic system and a sales system. So if you're a librarian and want to know all the details about a book, you'll use their bibliographic system. If you're an editor at The Bookseller and want to know whose books are selling best, you'll use the sales system. You can find out which writers' books are selling best, but unfortunately you can only get illustrator information from the bibliographic system. So if you want to know bestselling illustrators, they can get that information, but they have to do it manually. People don't request that information often enough for it to be worth the money they'd need to spend putting illustrator data into the sales system.

Another organisation worth knowing about is BIC, the Book Industry Communications Group.



BIC is an independent body set up to promote standards in the UK book trade. For instance, the ISBN is a standard, and it’s hard to imagine how the book trade could possibly work without it now. Standards help all the players in the industry, and all the different systems, communicate with each other more clearly. BIC’s website statement reads:

BIC is an independent organisation set up and sponsored by the Publishers Association, Booksellers Association, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the British Library to promote supply chain efficiency in all sectors of the book world through e-commerce and the application of standard processes and procedures.

But BIC just deal with UK standardising. (Its director is Karina Luke.) There’s another group that deals with standardising in other countries, particularly European countries, called EDItEUR. (Its director is Graham Bell.)



All these countries doing things differently sounds very complicated, doesn't it? They think so, too. So EDItEUR are trying to set up a huge overarching global classification system for books, called Thema. (The chair of this is Howard Willows, from Nielsen.)

But how do publishers get their data to Nielsen(so they can put it all together in one place and make it useful)? Lots of different ways, apparently. In the old days, they used to send Nielsen actual books, but they get hundreds of thousands every year, so they had to stop doing that. The way they most prefer publishers to submit data is by using a system called ONIX.



ONIX is the system BIC and Nielsen says really works, and ONIX is regularly updated to meet modern publishing needs. You can see it in the recent additions they've made for entering comics data, including colourists, inkers, letterers, etc:



In Nielsen's ideal world, everyone would use ONIX. But the problem is that not all outdated publisher systems can handle ONIX. So BIC have also created a bare-bones system called BIC Basic, and well, if major publishers can't handle the basic data they need for to submit for that, they're really failing us.

But faulty systems aren't all that's happening. Which brings us to the second point about how we need you to fill in all the data fields. Some publishers (or their badly trained interns) aren't filling in even the most basic things, including illustrator name. Fiona Noble at The Bookseller has been noticing this:




Publishers! To support #PicturesMeanBusiness, you **need** to have a meeting with your marketing and publicity people - particularly the young, clueless newbies - and let them know that press releases and Advance Information sheets without illustrator information are Not Good Enough. Fiona will back me up on this, and she's one of the people you're trying to impress. For us to pull out good data, you need to put IN good data.


No, I am not saying Nielsen is a series of tubes.

And that brings us to the third point, about requesting illustrator data. If your 'legacy system' is still stuck in warehouse mode, illustration won't be one of the fields you will have requested when you ask for data from Nielsen. The way the system works is you put in data, then you pull out the data you want. If no one wants to pull out illustrator sales data, then Nielsen has no financial incentive to link up their bibliographic illustrator data with their sales illustrator data. They'll make a one-off chart for you for a small fee, but that information won't be easily accessible on a regular basis.

Another reason Nielsen isn't very focused on illustration is because illustrated children’s books are only a tiny part of the books Nielsen deals with. The majority are works of academic non-fiction, and these often have many, and all sorts of, contributors.

Why do so few people want this illustrator sales information? If our economic value can't be assessed, we'll be forgotten by business people and written off as not contributing anything to the economy. Not even The Bookseller credited illustrators in sales charts until March of this year. You could see that Julia Donaldson was ruling the picture book sales charts, but you had no idea how The Gruffalo's illustrator Axel Scheffler's books were doing. In fact, if you entered his names into the Nielsen sales charts, he came out as quite a low moneymaker, since only the books he's written himself were calculated.

This omission plays out in real business decisions: certain airport bookshops ONLY stock books by Julia Donaldson because she's a sure-fire hit with buyers. But who's to say that these sure-fire hits aren't her books with Axel Scheffler? If Axel illustrated books with other writers, might these books sell just as well? They would have that recognisable look of Axel's that makes customers pick them up. The Bookseller have made huge strides recently in supporting illustrators and including them in their magazine. In the 15 May issue, jouralist Charlotte Eyre even commissioned a manually-compiled illustrator sales chart from Nielsen:



But this isn't the case in most media. Children's book coverage is getting smaller and smaller amounts of space in printed newspapers, and if someone wants a sales chart, they have a very limited budget and almost no space to put it in, so they're not going to go out of their way to add space for illustrator names.



When the illustrators get left out of their data, the newspapers forget illustrators have anything to do with books at all. You'll start to notice it now, mentions and reviews of picture books and highly illustrated fiction that only mention the writer's names. It trickles into the wider culture and schools only invite writers to give talks to their children, not realising how inspiring illustrators can be to getting their children reading, writing and drawing, all at the same time. (And many illustrators only survive in business with the supplement of school visit payments.)

So how do we prove our economic value? I don't know. We're not the sort of people who generally go on strike, and we don't have a union. (The Society of Authors is the closest thing we have to a union.) The thought of shelves and shelves of books without illustrations or cover art probably frightens illustrators more than it does publishers:



If we went on strike, books probably wouldn't all go blank. Publishers could probably stumble on for a couple years using in-house designers to do everything, using pre-bought typefaces, clip art and stock images. It would be ugly and start a counter-wave of self-published indie stuff, but their efforts would go on longer than illustrators could afford to sit out unemployed.

We need the help of people who know about metadata. Is that you? #PicturesMeanBusiness isn't an organised team, just a bunch of concerned people; if you're on Twitter, that's the easiest way to jump in, using the #PicturesMeanBusiness hashtag. From what I gather, Nosy Crow publishers are very up to date with digital technology, Usborne are good at crediting everyone, Glen Mehn of The Kitschies Awards has data experience, Georgina Atwell of Toppsta gave a talk on metadata at The Bookseller conference, Sara O'Conner has programming experience.

We may have a hard time solving this data problem. But we can make huge inroads into the cultural problem of illustrators not being credited, and the faster, the better. We need you book people, helping to promote illustration, where you can, right now. And it’s not only because you’re warm-hearted book lovers, it’s because you know that in this culture which relies on images more than ever, it’s our pictures that are selling your books, and you don’t want to miss any tricks: you want to sell more books. It’s business. Support our careers and help us stay in work making your books sell.

www.picturesmeanbusiness.com

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8. railhead ambassadors

Yesterday I got to be a RAILHEAD AMBASSADOR at a special early-preview event for Philip Reeve's upcoming novel, Railhead. (Look at me, being all railway and ambassadorial in gold braid and hat. Also slightly overheated.)



Funnily enough, I used to go to lots of ambassadorial events when I first met my husband, when he was working for the British Embassy in Moscow. Back then, I was very studenty and didn't really have any dress-up clothes, so I pretty much wore black jeans, a velvet shirt and Doc Martens everywhere. All the foreign service wives had perfect English-bought clothes for every occasion and I always felt a bit awkward and gauche. So it was nice to be going to an ambassador event when I'd stopped caring about not blending in and could look like a twit with the greatest of joy, ha ha.

Anyway, back to the book, and I'm really excited about this one. Here's a snapshot of one of the posters on display at the event:



'Gentlemen Take Polaroids' is definitely my favourite train name. And here are the other assembled Railhead Ambassadors! Some of them had won a competition to attend, and others were young reviewers for the Guardian Children's Books website.



Here are a few of the tweets from Philip's first Railhead reading:




After the reading and Philip's answers to some very well-thought-out questions from the audience, we had drinks upstairs with Darren Hartwell from BookZone, Caleb Woodbridge and Laura Heath of the aforementioned tweets.



Here's Guardian Chidren's Book website editor Emily Drabble (who, incidentally, commissioned our Seawigs Comics Jam, my How to draw a hungry T-Rex, How to Draw Jampires and How to Draw a Silly Unicorn.)



Then I got to meet some more of the ambassadors while Philip signed advance review copies for the guests. (This version isn't quite finished - there will be a few more tweaks and editions in the final version - but it's ready enough to show to reviewers, to give them an early jumpstart before the book comes out in the autumn.)



These guys made me laugh. They're like, 'REEVE? We are going to CRUSH HIS VERY BONES.'



I'll look forward to reading their reviews! And I'll post a review here nearer to the publication date. But I CAN say that Railhead is ace.







And here's a good showing from the Oxford University Press Railhead publicity team: Keo Baxendine, Liz Scott and Alesha Bonser. You can check out what people are saying over on the #RAILHEAD hash tag.



Funnily enough, on my way to meet Philip, I met a REAL train driver! In fact, I'd met James Bacon before at a comics convention, but I had no idea he drove the Heathrow Express. (How cool is that?)




One more thing: Railhead is Philip's solo book (I'm not a co-author), but there's been a lovely review of our joint book, Oliver and the Seawigs by Stephen Holland of the excellent Page 45 comics shop in Nottingham. Stephen's a legendary reviewer, so I was hugely flattered to see that he'd taken time to focus on Seawigs, which isn't even a comic! I love reading his reviews: they're so exuberant, and he comes up with the most original descriptions and observations. And it's wonderful to see a review that talks so much about the illustrations. Thanks, Stephen! You can read the whole review here (scroll down a bit).

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9. strange & norrell sketches

Last night I was all a-flutter, waiting for the final episode in the BBC's seven-part mini-series interpreting Susanna Clarke's novel, illustrated by Portia Rosenberg, of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. And I've had fun dashing off character sketches before the start of several episodes. Here's Lady Pole, played by Alice Englert, who spends much of her time being forced to dance, under enchantment:



If you don't live in Britain, you might have missed all the fuss. Here's the website and the original trailer:



And the two magicians, Norrell and Strange (played by Eddie Marsan and Bertie Carvel), who are both obsessed with magic, but go about dealing with their obsessions very differently:




The fairy, known as 'The Gentleman', played by Marc Warren who is wonderfully cold, capricious, elegant and awful.



And Twitter went so nuts over the brooding Childermass, played by Enzo Cilenti, that I found it very amusing.



Here's a little out-take with Childermass:



I'll miss all those fine Yorkshire accents. (Well, I'm no expert in Yorkshire accents, but they sounded great to me.) Here's a peek at the original book, which encases a smattering of appropriately murky illustrations by Portia Rosenberg:



Usually I like to read the book before watching a film. But I tried to read this one years ago, and got distracted, or wandered off or something. But I liked the beveled edges, so I kept it, and when I got caught up in the series, I read it all very quickly because I so wanted to know what was going to happen. And I don't think, in this case, the book suffered for having the film's character's in my head; they were beautifully cast.



Thanks for some great telly, Peter Harness and the BBC!

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10. paris sketchbook with tess, age 5

I wasn't sure how a 5-year-old would hold up over days exploring Paris.



But our friends' daughter, Tess, was a real trouper, and I thought I'd post some of our sketchbook drawings we made together.



Keeping a travel sketchbook with a child turned out to be a great way to keep myself getting to precious about my drawings. I never knew when Tess would come in with glitter pen or a fat blob of red ink. And it didn't really matter.



I was a bit nervous about letting Tess use my Pentel brush pen because most kids I know are pretty heavy-handed with their pen tips. But Tess got the hang of it on the second brush stroke, and had fun echoing the grape vine texture around the top of the cafe where we were eating (Chez Prune, which I'd visited years and years ago with my friends Mags and Mano, and it was still good food, with nice waiters who let us practice our stumbling French).




Here's Tess drawing at breakfast the first morning:



And our slightly bleary drawings and mark making:



Donna, Jake, Tess, Stuart and I headed over to the Jardin du Luxembourg and Tess immediately wanted to sail one of the boats in the little lake.



It turned out to be a lot of fun. There was a good breeze, and the boat would sail across the lake and veer off at odd angles at sudden gusts of wind, so we never knew quite where it would end up, or which other boat it would hit.



We got boarded once by pirates (a very confident, slightly older American girl ran that ship), and entangled with Dutch and Brazilian ships, but all was well.



For lunch, we went to Crêperie du Clown.



We drew the boat picture, and another picture of our food and the rather creepy clown sculpture by the entrance.



Sometimes we just drew random stuff, like Peppa Pig. The one on the bottom left is Tess's Stuart Peppa Pig.



We also bumbled around the pretty streets, did a lot of window shopping, and bought some trinkets in a market in the Latin Quarter.



I learned from my friend Donna a good New York word for trinkets: Tchotchke



We also went to Disneyland Paris! I might do another blog post on that. But here's Jake and Tess in a teacup.



Tess loved all the princess-y stuff at Disneyland (she'd had her parents read my book with Gillian Rogerson, You Can't Eat a Princess! to her so many times they were totally sick of it, ha ha). But her favourite ride turned out to be driving the cars at Autopia.



We were there at Disneyland for ten hours and she didn't have a single meltdown, which was a total miracle. (We hired a pushchair that she could jump in and out of, so that bought us a bit more time.) On the way back, she was tired but she still wanted to do some abstract brush pen drawing, inspired by the railway tracks of the Thunder Mountain ride.



On Stuart and my last day there, we all met up in Montmartre with the Brink Morrisons, a family I'd stayed with in 2012, after being a guest at the Paris Sci-Fi & Manga Show with Emma Vieceli. Here's a drawing I did of them back then, when Emma and Luc were much younger:



And a drawing we'd made together then:



We thought we'd do another group drawing, and Emma, Luc and Tess all pitched in:



It's not easy fitting four hands around a piece of paper! We got some good practice in drawing upside-down.



And here was our final drawing of us, gathered around the table eating Barbara's amazing quiche lunch.



Thanks for drawing with me, Tess, and being so much fun!



When we got back, I spotted Emma's drawing on Instagram. Thanks, Emma!



List of pens we used:

* Pentel Brush Pen (You can buy replacement ink cartridges and the ink is waterproof when it dries, so you can paint over the lines without smearing them.)

* Faber-Castell Pitt Pens (especially the fine 'F' pen)

* Tombow brush pens (we had a red one)

* And we also had crayons and a pencil

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11. pictures mean business celebrates our new children's laureate!

The new appointment of Chris Riddell to the post of Children's Laureate means so many good things for illustrators and everyone who loves illustration! Not only is he hoping to get lots more people drawing - parents, as well as kids - but he's a big supporter of our #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign. Hurrah!



Here's an article by Charlotte Eyre in this week's edition of The Bookseller:


(You can read the rest of the article here. Thanks so much, Chris!!)

Here's a photo of me at the award ceremony with Chris's co-author Paul Stewart, who's worked with him on The Edge Chronicles. They're an awesome team and live just a few houses away from each other!




I didn't get to talk much with Chris at the Laureate ceremony because he, predictably, was mobbed by fans and press the whole time. You can spot former Laureate Malorie Blackman, who's a big supporter of #PicturesMeanBusiness.



It was a big change from 2010 when The Graveyard Book won the Carnegie medal and Neil Gaiman was getting mobbed in that exact same room, and hardly anyone was paying attention to Chris, so he was free to have a long chat with me. (Some photos here from 2010.)


Chris Riddell at the Carnegie-Greenaway ceremony in 2010 with David Roberts and Viviane Schwarz

Those were different times, when the illustrator wasn't even credited in the award listing, despite having a huge role in creating the book, and Chris Riddell was slightly forgotten.



Thank goodness Joy Court and the Carnegie Greenaway committee were quick to see the error of this, and now illustrators are listed when an illustrated book is up for the Carnegie award. (Writers had always been listed with the books up for the Greenaway illustration award.)

But... dodgy book meta data is still creating huge problems. Here's a listing of the top book sales at Hay Festival, with the illustrators left out. (Chris even won a big illustration prize at the festival.) When I commented on the listing, the person who'd written the post edited it, but it was only later that the Dutch translator of The Parent Agency, Sandra Hessels, noted that Baddiel's book was actually highly illustrated by Jim Field. But I think the post was deemed too late to edit by then.



To be fair to the Hay bookshop person, I wouldn't have realised Jim had highly illustrated The Parent Agency either, and I'm a huge fan of Jim's work. He's not listed in the book data provided to Amazon, which suggests his publisher didn't fill out all the necessary boxes in the forms they submitted.



I wouldn't have realised the book was illustrated at all, and that's because his name's not written on the front cover. Eek, look, it's there in tiny letters under the bar code, on the back cover... there, under the pigeons.



With the way the covers are designed, big lights on the front, street pigeons on the back, it reminds me of that Pet Shop Boys song that goes: We're... the bums... you step over as you leave the theatre...

That's not right. Jim says he spent at least two weeks working on that cover alone, and he should be listed at least somewhere on the front cover. I know the HarperCollins marketing people see writer and comedian David Baddiel as the big attraction, but it's actually misleading; you wouldn't be able to know this book was illustrated if you just saw the cover. And the front cover is what most people see if they buy the book online, or pick it up in a shop. David was quick to point out on Twitter that he always credits Jim, but the Sales & Marketing people should have been more honest with the wording they put on the cover. As Jim's pointed out, this lack of cover credits is a HUGE problem in illustrated fiction, and just because an illustrator doesn't raise a big stink, it doesn't mean they're not completely gutted by the decision to omit their name. The Dutch publisher was clued in enough to include Jim. His name's not as large as David's, but at least it's there.


Photo of Jim Field from the United Agents website

Editors, designers, marketing people, this is a BIG ISSUE: please don't take the decision lightly to omit your illustrator's name from the front cover. Here's what you're doing:

* Refusing the illustrator the chance to build up their own name branding

* Denying potential buyers the information that the book is illustrated

* Telling the public that illustration is far, far less important than writing and denying readers a hero alongside the writer

* Making it hard for illustrators to take part credibly in Author Visits (denying them a further source of income and publicity)

* In the case of a television celebrity writer, you're saying that television people are much more important than book people. Is this something you really want to say, if you're going to try to sell more books? Aren't you shooting yourself in the foot by doing this?


Illustrators don't get salaries or pension plans like in-house publishing people. They need all the help they can get to build their brand and keep their career going. If you decide you can't possibly credit them (a lame decision), you should pay much, much, MUCH more money. Why not just credit them? Get with it, people.

So what's happening? I'm going to a meeting next week between The Bookseller, Nielsen, the Society of Authors and the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators to discuss this problem. I originally thought Nielsen was the culprit, but it's looking more and more as though Nielsen are just dealing with the data they're given, and publishers are submitting faulty, irregular and incomplete data. Keep an eye on The Bookseller and Charlotte Eyre's articles for updates. But we need you to keep up the pressure on publishers to submit complete metadata, ask questions when illustrated cover art is revealed with no illustrator mention, reviewers leave out illustrators, and illustrators are left off front covers of highly illustrated books.

And I hope Chris will keep pushing for awareness about crediting illustrators; we're all in this together and as an illustrator, he knows exactly what it's like to be left out of listings where he should rightfully have his name. Visit picturesmeanbusiness.com if you want to catch up on what the campaign's about, and browse the #PicturesMeanBusiness hash tag on Twitter.



Here's another photo from the Children's Laureate ceremony: fab writer-illustrator Liz Pichon with her predictive fingernail.



Our Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space OUP publicist Harriet Bayly took my co-author Philip Reeve and me out for lunch after the ceremony. Funnily enough, that 2010 Carnegie Greeaway ceremony was the first time I ever met Philip, although we only exchanged a few words when I snapped his photo.



Philip was the person who originally came up with the Pegasus for the #PicturesMeanBusiness logo. It started out as a piece of wood he painted:



And together we turned it into an illustrated online story called The Dartmoor Pegasus, which you can read in full here.



I also did a lengthy blog post about visiting Chris's studio, way back in 2011, which you can see here. Congratulations on your new role as Children's Laureate, Chris!



You can follow Chris on Twitter (@chrisriddell50) and Instagram.

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12. happy birthday, raven girl!

Best birthday wishes to illustrators, printmaker, comics creator, letterpress crafts person and painter Audrey Niffenegger. Oh, and she also turns out the occasional fabulous novel!

I hear Raven Girl the ballet is coming back to the Royal Opera House in October, so be sure to snatch up tickets, it's one of the best ballets I've ever seen and so evocative of the original prints and story it's based on.

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13. authors live: cakes in space at bbc scotland



Blog written with my co-pilot Philip Reeve: So our shiny silver space shuttle set us down in sunny Glasgow, where we’d been invited by Scottish Book Trust to do one of their Authors Live events.



These events take place at the BBC’s Glasgow studios; there’s a small invited audience of children from local schools, but the show is also broadcast live online to any other schools who want to sign up for it.



We arrived on Wednesday afternoon to meet Scottish Book Trust’s Heather Collins and some of the team who were going to be in charge of the broadcast. Part of the Cakes in Space show involves a video transmission from some spoon-crazy alien life-forms called the Poglites. At all the festivals we’ve done we’ve used a video which Philip and his wife Sarah Reeve shot on his phone, of two Poglite puppets in a spaceship set made out of old polystyrene packaging.




But to be shown by the BBC it needed to be ‘broadcast quality’, so we brought the puppets with us and re-shot the whole thing in one of the vaguely futuristic-looking stairwells at the BBC.





The actual show took place on Thursday morning. We suited up and waited nervously in the hotel lobby for the shuttle to take us to BBC HQ…





Filming was to take place in an open atrium area in the middle of the BBC building, which had been decorated for the purpose with stars and silver podia (grammar). It takes a LOT of people to arrange even a simple broadcast like this. Here are some of the team…



And here are some of the audience - a weird and wonderful collection of interstellar oddballs shipped in from a neighbouring star-cluster.


Photo by Alan Peebles

They seemed friendly though. One of them, Abena, brought us this nice letter, so we knew they Came In Peace.



We’d never done a live broadcast before, so we were a bit nervous, but everything seemed to go well.


Photo by Alan Peebles


Photo by Alan Peebles


Photo by Alan Peebles


Photo by Alan Peebles


Photo by Alan Peebles

And you can see for yourself, because one of the great things about the Authors Live scheme is that recordings of the shows are kept on the Scottish Book Trust website, where anyone can watch them whenever they fancy. So we now have a lasting record of the Cakes In Space show, which future generations will be able to look at and say, ‘WHAT were you THINKING?’


Click on the image to watch the video!

It’s especially nice to have this record because this was the last Cakes in Space show we’ll be doing (at least for a while). In the autumn we’ll be unveiling a whole new show based on Pugs of the Frozen North. Big thank yous to Heather and her team from Scottish Book Trust, teacher Jennifer Buchan (who created Author Live's Cakes in Space Learning Resource page), and Janice Forsyth, Donald, Irene, Neil, Liz, photographer Alan Peebles and everyone at BBC Scotland for making it all possible.



While we were in Glasgow, we also managed to catch up with Sarah's Glasgow Auntie and our friends Adam Murphy (who draws the Corpse Talk strip for The Phoenix and his comics colourist partner Lisa Murphy. (Great to see you guys!)

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14. new children's laureate - and he draws!

Huge congratulations to the excellent Chris Riddell, Britain's new Children's Laureate! And well done to Malorie Blackman, for being an awesome laureate for the last two years!



I need to go to Glasgow to do a Scottish Booktrust event (in, uh, six minutes), but I'll come back and add to this blog post, since Chris being laureate means EXCITING TIMES. :D



In the meantime, you can follow Chris on Twitter (@chrisriddell50) and Instagram.

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15. dinosaur police: the launch party!

Today's official launch of my new Scholastic UK picture book, Dinosaur Police, involved quite a lot of preparation, but not all of it by me. Deadly Knitshade and her crew of dinosaurs were very busy:



And I was BAKING, something I almost never do!



Then we all gathered at the Herne Hill bookshop in south London, Tales on Moon Lane, which had a lovely display of loads of the books I've worked on:



My sculptor friend Eddie Smith had been busy making my hat (for Hay Festival and the launch), and here he is with my Dinosaur Police editor, Pauliina Malinen:



And the hats were terrific! Check out Deadly Knitshade (aka Lauren O'Farrell):


Photos tweeted by @deadlyknitshade







Look at this Officer Brachio badge, stitched by Sami Teasdale! She gave it to me at the end of the day, totally amazing.



My excellent Scholastic publicist, Dave Sanger, and I did a little Masterchef cooking demonstration: how to make a dinosaur pizza.



And everyone dug in to the various Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous tomato pastes, swamp cheese, chili, mushrooms, everything needed to make a particularly sweet pizza.



Then I swapped hats because my big one kept getting tangled up in the chandeliers. I did a reading... (photo tweeted by Deadly Knitshade)


Photo tweeted by @deadlyknitshade

And Dinosaur Dave acted out some particularly emotional parts of the story:



Then we did some drawing and a song. Look, here's my husband Stuart's drawing! (You can download more drawing activities over on the Dinosaur Police webpage.)



Then we went out to the bookshop back yard for bubbly and book signing and Pauliina gave a fab speech:



Big thanks to Pauliina, my designer Rebecca Essilifie, Dave, Scholastic, Tereze, Juliet and staff at Tales on Moon Lane, my studio mates (Elissa Elwick, Gary Northfield and member-at-large Lauren O'Farrell), web designer Dan Fone, and Stuart for being so supportive! And to everyone who came along for the launch! Lauren shot a Vine video of me signing a book:



But Tales on Moon Lane wasn't our only stop! Earlier that morning Dave and I had taken part in a smaller Story Time at Dulwich Books, which was also good fun!



As Philip Ardagh pointed out, we even made the newspapers, ha ha... Young Holly managed to capture the rascal on paper:



Big thanks to everyone who came along! I also took off my big hat after the intial introduction because I think its sheer size was scaring one of the littlest guys in the front row. (It's better designed for big stage events, I think>)





This event was the first time Dave had drawn with me in public AND his first public outing in a dinosaur onesie. VERY BRAVE.



Big thanks to Sheila and Annie for hosting us!





And one last thanks to brave Dinosaur Dave.

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16. seawigs: lancashire fantastic book award

Huge thanks from Philip Reeve and me to all the schoolchildren from 120 schools in Lancashire who voted for Oliver and the Seawigs to win the Lancashire Fantastic Book Awards! The awards committee presented Reeve and I both with special fancy pens, so we could write a couple letters back to them:



The Lancashire Fantastic Book Awards is a great scheme that encourages kids ages 9-12 to love reading, not for any specific educational target, just to get stuck into reading because it's exciting, full of adventures and unexpected companionship, and something they can have the thrill of doing for the rest of their lives. Find out more about the award and the other winners over on their website. Sadly we were unable to attend the ceremony because we were doing a tour in Frankfurt, but here's a short video Reeve, a Sea Monkey and I recorded a week earlier, while were were doing our Cakes in Space show in Stratford-upon-Avon.



Thanks so much to all the schools, teachers, librarians and award team! (Oh, and to Oxford University Press and super-talented Reeve, of course, for creating such a smashing story with me.) Check out this great mural by Lowerhouse Junior School!



Love those Rambling Islands. Awesome.

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17. this comic wishes it was profound

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18. dinosaur police: hay festival 2015

I had my first Dinosaur Police event yesterday, at the Hay Festival in Wales! And I got to wear my brand-new dinosaur-inspired hat! My sculptor friend, Eddie Smith created it (the same guy who helped me build the giant Seawig and talking cake hat), and my local tailor, Esther Marfo, made the dress. (Oh, and I made the book!)



This photo's by Jay Williams for Telegraph Books, and I was awfully excited to be included in the gallery between Pam Ayres and Virginia McKenna, both of whom I got to meet in the Green Room. Here's a doodle of my awesome Scholastic UK publicist, Dave Sanger, bravely helping me on stage to lead the audience in a very rousing rendition of the Dinosaur Police SONG. It might not have been the most tuneful number on the day, but we all sang it with great gusto. (Thanks, Philip Reeve, for writing the lyrics, and Sarah Reeve, for teaching me some ace uke chords to play with it!)




Here's Dave, sheltering from the rain under the umbrella of my enormous hat. Oh... and I have some exciting news about David!



Not only is he a fab publicist, but he's signed a book deal with Quercus for a book for adults, All Their Minds in Tandem, coming out next spring. Yay, Dave! I can't wait to read it.



So for our event, we did some drawing, and some roaring, comics, and general mucking about.



I showed everyone my way of drawing Trevor the T-Rex, and here's one of the drawings from a girl in the audience named Grace. We discussed various possible dinosaur professions, and this one's a dinosaur astronaut. (Here are some guides on my website to drawing dinosaurs, if you want to have a try.)



And it wasn't just people in Wales drawing dinosaurs; here's a picture tweeted in from South America of Inspector Sarah Tops at the same time by Mercedes Ortiz!



And then I got to sign and draw in lots of books. Thanks so much, everyone who came along! (Photo tweeted by Steph Roundsmith at @kidsrwreview.)



Big thanks to the other Sarah, who managed our event, and Glyn Morgan (@GR_Morgan), who was working another event but made me feel very famous by pulling me aside for a photo to tweet.



Actually, a lot of us had fun with the hat. Here are authors Ed Vere, Holly Smale and Tom Moorhouse.



I only had time to go to one event, so I went to see Holly give a talk with Megan Farr and Arabella Weir. Holly and Arabella have both written stories about teenage girls very much like they were as teenagers, and it was kind of funny because I think it they'd met each other as teenagers, they would have loathed each other. Since they're both grown-ups now, they can talk about these things in a friendly sort of way, but I think the audience could still feel the undercurrent of their semi-fictional teenage selves at war. (Which made everything way more interesting than if they'd been very similar.)



The most surprising question actually came from a child in the audience, who said: "You're both obviously very intelligent women. So why are you writing books for children?" (Cue a big intake of breath from several people up front and in the audience who make books for children.) Holly and Arabella answered it well, saying that it can be even harder to write for children, because children don't let writers hide behind unnecessary literary nonsense: either a story works for them, or it doesn't. In fact, Holly didn't even set out to write for children. She made the Geek Girl protagonist 15 years old, and that's what made the editor decide it was a children's book. Both Arabella and Holly said they never dumb down allusions and jokes because they're writing for kids, and Holly pointed to Shakespeare references in her stories.

Both writers said it's harder to make people laugh than cry, which I very much agree with. It reminded me of a line tweeted recently by Ewa SR:



Being funny doesn't mean being dizzy or less talented, on the contrary, it takes more skill.



Another thing that takes a whole lot of skill is moderating talks. Big cheers to people who moderated MANY talks, including Daniel Hahn (who was compere for 18 talks during the festival!) and the Telegraph Book's Martin Chilton, who also had to read a whole lot of books and ask a lot of good questions. Here's Martin, looking lovely in the dino hat. (And yes, he DID suddenly sprout a lavish blond fringe.)



I was sad to miss illustrator Jamie Littler's event with Danny Wallace, but I hear it was a storming success. (Here he is, with the newspaper rose we were all given.)



One of the hardest things about this year has been not having enough time to catch up with friends. And this festival was wonderful for that. On the first morning, I came out of my bedroom at George House to find my great friend, writer Moira Young, also coming downstairs to breakfast. Yay! Here's Moira, with wonderful Shirley Smith, who lives in the house and turns it into a guesthouse once a year, just for the festival. I stayed with her in 2012 and was thrilled to be back.



And it was great to catch up with Moira and her architect husband Paul. Another big treat was getting to have a girly slumber party with Holly Smale, when she found she wouldn't be able to catch the last train home. After dinner, we stayed up WAY too late chatting in the pink bedroom, in our little twin beds, then came back together on the train. Good times.



And the other people who made it a fun visit was the group of Norwegians at the festival - a 'noggin' of Norwegians as I've decided they're called - and they took me out to dinner on the first night: Helga and John Rullestad (who hosted me in Norway for the SILK Festival) and their good friend Odd Henning Johannessen. (Thanks so much, Norwegians!)



Thanks so much to Mary Beard and Heather Salisbury at Hay Festival for inviting and looking after me, Shirley for putting me up, Dave for being my glamorous dinosaur assistant, the team at the Hay Festival bookshop, Dave and Harriet Bayly for the second night's dinner, drivers Darren and Mark, Sarah, the stewards and everyone who made the festival run so smoothly and be so much fun. And big thanks to Eddie and Esther for all the costume help!

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19. pictures mean business: bookseller, scwbi rally for illustration

Hurrah for The Bookseller magazine, for not getting sore when a bunch of us criticised it for not properly listing illustrators in articles and sales charts. Instead, they've listened, made changes, and this week opened up wider debate on the #PicturesMeanBusiness issue. Journalist Charlotte Eyre asked me to write this piece for today's issue (which you can also read online here).


Portrait photo in The Bookseller by Dave Warren

Charlotte has written a longer piece, and created a 'Top 10 Picture Book Illustrators' sales chart, which is something very new. Helen Oxenbury has gone from being unmentioned for her role in creating We're Going on a Bear Hunt with Michael Rosen to being listed in her own right as illustrator. You can read Charlotte's article here, Nielsen calls for debate over crediting illustrators.



But the issue's not as clear as we illustrators would like to think, and Charlotte flags some of the complex areas which need addressing:




Last Wednesday, a group of us from the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators met in the Savoy Tup pub in London to discuss #PicturesMeanBusiness, organised by active SCBWI members Candy Gourlay and Mo O'Hara. Carnegie head Joy Court, Charlotte Eyre and I talked with the group about the campaign and we pooled what knowledge people in the room had on the issue so far.

Joy was the first person who made me aware that the data was such a big issue in the Carnegie award listings. One thing I've been learning, and which was strengthened by the discussion was that Nielsen isn't entirely to blame for the problem. When I first came to the issue, it seemed like the main problem was that Nielsen had outdated software and needed to update it; then all the listings would fall into place. But that's only partly true. The other problem is that publishers all have different ways of organising the data they submit to Nielsen (many of their own systems desperately outdate), and Nielsen has to work with what it's given.

Some publishers realise that their illustrators may not get credit if they list them as illustrators, so they list them as authors. (And, in a sense, illustrators are authors in telling the story.) But if they leave the illustrator field blank, then it's tricky to discover who illustrated the book. Other publishers are giving incomplete data, possibly only listing the writer. What's submitted to Nielsen is a big, irregular mish-mash. Since the publishers are paying Nielsen for the data collection service, it's more likely that they can demand things of Nielsen, rather than Nielsen demanding software upgrades from the publishers. Charlotte has been liasing with a contact at Nielsen and said he's been very open and helpful about it.

So we need to look to the publishers to provide more regular data. Digital data may be a boring topic, but it is a BIG DEAL. As more and more processes are computerised, our livelihoods become very dependent on the accuracy and searchability of this data. Amazon are leading the way in organising their data, and because it's so easy to find things on their websites, it's beating out sellers who don't have access to such good data. UK publishers need to up their games so Amazon doesn't take all the sales. (And politicians need to sort out better tax laws so sellers are taxed fairly and equally, but that's another subject, even if it's related.)

At the SCBWI discussion, we asked, how can we encourage publishers provide better data? One suggestion by Charlotte was to try to get publishers to sign up to a charter, agreeing on a standard way of submitting book data. By signing, they would be stating that they submitted a complete set of data to the charter's specified standards (including illustrators and translators). Charlotte said The Bookseller might be able to spearhead this action.

But as Charlotte has pointed out in her article today, crediting is not always clear. We're going to talk more about this in a follow-up discussion on Twitter at 4pm (British time) on the hash tag #FutureChat. Bookseller Associate Editor Porter Anderson will be hosting the discussion, manning @TheFutureBook account. Please do take part if you can!



And I've realised that my #PicturesMeanBusiness updates sprawl over many blog posts, so I've tightened them up on to one page here: www.jabberworks.co.uk/pictures-mean-business



On that page I talk about:
1. The problem of uncredited illustrators
2. Why it matter and whom it affects (beyond illustrators)
2. How you can help with the campaign
4. Campaign progress so far


And I just spotted that Bookseller Associate Editor Porter Anderson has blogged about WRITERS going uncredited! I can see what he means: there is a lot of 'The Times says...' or 'The Bookseller claims that...' without mentioning the journalist.

Big thanks to writers Candy and Mo for hosting this weeks' SCBWI event!



One wonderful thing from that night was meeting Yat-Hong Chow, who created this book, Yellow as a real family effort. His seven-year-old son, Yü Chow, wrote the text, 'a fictional diary of a seven year old boy', with his dad's help. Yat designed the book, and his wife, Yü's mother, Hannah Kops, created the illustrations. Not every family can do this so expertly, but it's a wonderful example of a family coming together and recognising every aspect of creating a book. What a sense of achievement, to work as a team and create something like that together! (Here's their Kickstarter page.) It felt very much in the spirit of what we'd been discussing that evening.

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20. dartmoor pegasus: #maysketchaday

I haven't been doing enough of my own non-work drawing lately, and when I don't, I find I feel rather low, and my work slows down. So last night I got out my pens and did another Dartmoor Pegasus drawing.



It's part of a story that my Cakes in Space co-author Philip Reeve and I made up as we went along, based on a little painting he once made on a piece of wood. (You can see earlier Dartmoor Pegasus drawings here.



The thing that got me going was when concept artist Ian McQue tweeted a picture with the #maysketchaday hash tag. People are trying to post one sketch every day, but a lot of these people are concept artists and a lot of what they call 'sketches' look like big, epic finished pieces to me. If I ever start thinking I've figured out this illustration thing, I just need to look over at concept artists' work and realise I still have a long way to go in upping my game. I love line, but I'm not so good at lighting effects and more subtle colours, and some of these guys are masters.

Ian McQue consistently posts amazing work; he's one of the best things happening on Twitter. Here's one, created in Photoshop, with a Blade Runner feel to it:




And another based on his 'Mechadoodles', this one titled 'Flea':



My other favourite person experimenting on Twitter is Jonathan Edwards (@jontofski). Here's a watercolour painting of a street corner in Toronto that most people would probably pass without noticing. He's turned it into total magic:



This #maysketchaday meme has instroduced me to some more concept artists. Check out work by Thomas Scholes:







Here's one by Paul Scott Canavan (@abigbat):



And another by Lennart Verhoeff (@Pixeltuner):



I'm going to try to post some more drawings for #maysketchaday. I'm not sure they'll be every day because I have a lot of events, but I'll do my best. Thanks for sharing your work, lovely concept artists. You're very inspiring!

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21. dinosaur police: 6 june south london mini tour!

I told Trevor the T-Rex to put on his party clothes for the upcoming launch of Dinosaur Police ...I quite like his style, I might copy it sometime!



Normally Trevor is bumbling around Dinoville in his yellow-and-white-polkadot pants. Here's how to draw him, if you get the urge! (More downloadable drawing activities over on the new Dinosaur Police web page here.)



On Saturday, 6 June, my publisher Scholastic UK and I will be taking part in not one, but TWO Dinosaur Police events! One in the morning at Dulwich Books and one in the afternoon at Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill. The one at Dulwich Books is free (but you'll need to book) and will be a smaller session but lots of drawing fun, and the one at Tales on Moon Lane will involve drawing, singing, snacks and a bit of bubbly for the grownups. You need to book for that one, with a £2.50 ticket that can come off the price of the book if you buy one.



So see which one suits your family's schedule, and hope to see you there! :) Dressing up VERY welcome (but not obligatory). Thanks so much for hosting, lovely indie bookshops!

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22. schwupp und weg: reeve & mcintyre hit frankfurt

Look! Seawigs have reached Germany! Here are some young rambling isles who we met last week at the European School in Bad Villbel, near Frankfurt.



Dressler, our German publisher, had asked us to go and visit some international schools to spread the word about Oliver and the Seawigs, or Schwupp und Weg as it’s known in those parts.






Our main host was Stephanie von Selchow who is the librarian at the European School in Frankfurt.



She’d arranged for us to do two sessions there, for her own students, and a visiting class from Textorschule, Sachsenhausen. A lot of the kids had already read Oliver and the Seawigs, so after we’d talked a bit about it we went on to Cakes in Space, which has just been published in Germany as Kekse im Kosmos. Most of the audience spoke good English, and it seemed to go down well... of course, some of the show needs no translation; the bit where I hit Philip over the head with a mandolin case goes down well in any language.



That afternoon we had a quick wander around Frankfurt, and tried to draw some of the odd but attractive nobbly linden trees which line the riverside.



They're quite tricky trees to draw, and I'd love to have another try at them. One of the school kids had a picture of this kind of tree in his Oliver and the Seawigs artwork and he got the funny shape of it just right.



Then it was off to the Literaturhaus restaurant, where we had dinner with Stephanie and some of her colleagues from ESF and other schools.



As you can see, it was very grand, and the food and company were first-rate.



The next morning we were picked up by Manuela Rossi, who whirled us down the Autobahn to Bad Villbel, where we talked Seawigs and Cakes to some of the students of the European School Rhine Main.



Utte, the librarian there, showed us some of the great artwork the children had produced, including this fantastic tower of houses. It looks a bit like a Traction City out of Philip’s Mortal Engines books.



Most amusing question of the day: Where did you get those GIGANTIC SHOES?



Then it was back on the Autobahn to yet another international school, Accadis in Bad Homburg.



We’d met Samantha Malmberg and Caitlin Wetsch from the school at the previous night’s dinner, so it was good to see them in their natural surroundings, and meet their students, who were VERY EXCITED TO SEE US.
Some of the classes had done whole whole projects on Oliver the Seawigs, complete with some great drawings.



And after that we had a little bit more time to mooch around Frankfurt...



...in the guise of Mitteleuropean crime-fighting duo Peek & Cloppenburg.



Strange things were going on in Frankfurt city centre. Nobody seemed to be bothered by the fact that the shopping mall was being devoured by a wormhole…



But we discovered a natty German-style TARDIS and were able to save the day.



And we both found excellent covers for our pop albums, should we ever find time to write and record them. Here’s Philip, waiting for the Trans-Europe Express…



Heaven knows what mine is going to sound like.



But whatever it is, it will be lovely: some things are Better Than Perfection.



Thanks to Stephanie, Utte, Sam and all the staff and volunteers who helped to make our visit to Frankfurt so enjoyable. We were very sad to leave!

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23. our lady of the bogus wifi

Here's a drawing based on a medieval painting at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. Great museum! I wasn't so taken with their modern art, but the old stuff was grand.



(Here's our lady peeking at the original painting.)

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24. dinosaur police: getting ready

It's so exciting having a picture book launching right now, but getting the word out about it is a real team effort! Here's my friend, the sculptor Eddie Smith, turning his hand to millinery to make my hat for my event at the Hay Festival this Thursday. I think it will just about fit in my enormous suitcase. Maybe! We'll see.



And wonderful Ghanaian tailor Esther Marfo has been sewing my dress, from some wonderful African material I found in a shop near my studio. I love walking into her tailor shop: so much colour and amazing patterns everywhere.



So, see you at my first Dinosaur Police event, if you're at the festival in Wales. A brand-new event for a book is always slightly nerve-wracking, but my fab publicist Dave Sanger is going to help me when we sing the new Dinosaur Police song, and I got help with that, too: Philip Reeve wrote the lyrics and Sarah Reeve wrote the music and found some ukulele chords I could manage to play. I need help, I just make books, but there's so much more to telling people ABOUT those books!



In the meantime, it's great seeing what other people are getting up to. Check out these wonderful pictures tweeted by Mercedez Ortiz (@Literati101)!



Mercedez has set herself a great project. Here's what she writes on her blog:

There are no illustration courses in my city, and I couldn’t decide on what books to pick or which online classes could offer me the training I need. Not knowing where to start, I was sketching everything I saw, picking tips and tidbits of information here and there, drawing like a headless cucaracha. No matter how hard I tried, I knew all that wasn’t taking me anywhere.

Fortunately, on January I found The Guardian’s How to Draw… series, with piles of easy to follow step-by-step guides, prepared by some of the most amazing children's book illustrators in the world, and that treasure-trove inspired me to come up with this project!

The Project: Every day for a year, from February 1, 2015 to January 31, 2016, I will make an illustration inspired on what I’ll learn from each of these guides, doing some crazy experiments based on such lessons, and post the resulting illustration on this blog.

I’ll try to find my style throughout the whole project, which means that I’ll be trying to add my own flavor to the illustrations, besides exploring and experimenting with different materials and techniques.




Isn't that terrific? Here's her drawing based on my Trevor the T-Rex doing the Charleston, and Astra, from my 'How to Draw Astra' sheet on the Cakes in Space webpage.

I love it when people don't wait to be assigned art projects and actually go looking for them. That's pretty much what it was like when I studied for my Master's Degree at Camberwell art college; the people who waited around to be told to do things didn't get very far, and the people who excelled were the ones who grabbed every opportunity. They weren't so worried about good marks: they were looking for holes in their experience and skills, and how they could find ways to plug those holes with training and practice, wherever they could find it. Mercedez looks like one of those people, setting herself projects and going for it.

And here are two more plugs for my BIG OFFICIAL DINOSAUR POLICE launch day! Saturday, 6 June, mark your diaries!

* Storytime and drawing fun at Dulwich Books at 11am (see their website for details).

* A big party with snacks (and a bit of bubbly for the grownups), story, drawing and music at Tales on Moon Lane at 2pm! (Here's their events website).

Be sure to pre-book, and hope you can come along! Here are the two different event posters:



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25. mad max fury road

Since everyone is busy drawing amazing pictures of Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max - Fury Road, I thought the world needed a very bad drawing of the Doof Warrior:



And here is an article about the actor who play the Doof Warrior. I saw the film last week and it's hilarious, I loved it.



Some Doof soundtrack for you (for ambiance) and here's Philip Reeve's film review.



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